Organisational Challenges, part 1

You would expect a multi-leg journey to a third world country, with two weeks trekking into an area with no roads, rudimentary communications and a certain opacity in ‘how things are done round here’ to have its challenges. But you don’t expect to stumble at step one…

Having been happily bumbling along thinking things were going well on the booking front, I thought I’d log into Virgin Atlantic’s website to check the flights, choose seats and enter API information. Once I had dutifully plugged in passport numbers, frequent flyer numbers, meal preferences and inside leg measurements, I was about to log out when I noticed something rather troubling. See if you can spot it.

Yep, for those eagle-eyed readers paying attention (with a little visual clue), we appear to be walking from Delhi to Kathmandu as well.

Now I’m all up for a good hike, but I somehow think this is stretching the realms of possibility in the time we have. OK. So a few checks;

  1. The original booking via Opodo. Yep, all present and correct, 4 flights
  2. Go onto Jet Airways website, enter booking code and yes, again all 4 flights are go.
  3. Log onto Amadeus (with Sabre & Galileo one of the main global flight reservation engines that all the travel agents use) and again there they are, with common e-ticket numbers that were ticketed by… wait for it… Virgin Atlantic.

So how is it Virgin don’t know what should be on the itinerary? Time to apply to The Ministry of Truth, undergo The Trial, or transfer to Information Retrieval, whichever dystopian bureaucractic allegory floats your boat.

Step one: Contact Virgin. They confirm the Delhi – Kathmandu flight isn’t on the itinerary and I have to talk to Opodo, as it was booked through them and they service the booking. Despite it being ticketed by Virgin.

Step two: Contact Opodo, explaining the situation. They come back quoting the two indvidual airline’s booking codes for each leg, telling me they are booked and promptly mark the call as ‘solved’. Missing the point completely.

Step three: Get back to Opodo explaining that yes, I know that the flights are all booked, but if Virgin are not aware of the connecting flight to Kathmandu firstly they can’t check us through all the way, secondly the lack of an Indian visa and connecting flight will probably mean we won’t be let on. Explain they need to contact Virgin to sort it out, as Virgin referred me to them. They say they will get back to me, but when looking at the on-line call status it has miraculously altered back to ‘solved’ immediately. Target rather than service driven culture? Just a little.

Step four: Wait patiently. For nearly a week. Start rehearsing calling Opodo,  planning to act out to them the roughly minute long phone call they would need to make to sort it, and then ask why it has taken a week. Realise that would just be arsey and simply ask for an update on my already ‘solved’ call.

Step five: And get the original answer again.

Step six: Stop waiting patiently and call Virgin’s flying club members line. Explain the situation and a very nice lady called Sophie looks at it, and within a minute establishes that the top level itinerary is wrong but the underlying ticket in their system is right. Yes, they can check us through, yes it will be fine, and this is something she’s been there long enough to know sometimes just happens, and not to worry. I fear Sophie is probably up for disciplinary action due to this wanton act of customer service.

I breath a sigh of relief. All OK, I can get back to worrying about things that actually should be a bit tricky. But then….

Step six: Opodo mail me back saying that Virgin can’t see the Jet flight as they have different systems. This contradicts

  • what I’ve been told by Virgin,
  • the whole international multi-leg single ticketing system that – as a travel agent – they really should know about,
  • that the return flight from Kathmandu IS on the itinerary
  • that I did this exact same trip on the same airlines two years ago, with no issues

Just to make even less sense, Opodo also say we’ll have to check in on both airlines’ websites. Eh? Haven’t they heard of interlining?

I think I’ll just let that one lie.


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